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Media Archaeology

This course is devoted to media archaeology, that is, historical research into forgotten, obsolete, neglected or otherwise dead media technologies. Depending on our understanding of “media” — one of the questions we’ll discuss — these might include forms as diverse as typewriters, phonographs, Polaroid photography, prison tattoo codes and the Victorian language of floral bouquets, outmoded video game platforms, computing systems, and musical instruments, smoke signals, scent organs, shorthand notation, and rocket mail delivery. Our premise is that understanding these things can help us gain a better sense of the development, meaning and legacy of media technologies, now and in the future; our goal is to introduce students to the skills and resources necessary for producing rigorous research on such obsolete and obscure media. The course will include an exposure to scholarship in media archaeology; an intensive introduction to research methods; finding and exploring word, image, and sound archives; and the restoration of media artifacts to their deep social, cultural and personal context. The course stems from the premise that media archaeology is best undertaken, like any archaeological project, collaboratively: we will follow a hands-on research studio model commonly used in disciplines such as architecture or design.

Fall 2010 syllabus

Dossiers--Fall 2010

Dossiers--Spring 2010

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Critical Techniques

As a group we are developing a series of Critical Techniques that help facilitate the analysis of dead media artifacts.


Some entries in the archive are drawn from the Dead Media Project, an email list devoted to the topic started by Bruce Sterling and more recently moderated by Tom Jennings. The email list is now dead.


Lost formats

Obsolete Skills

The Evolution of Classroom Technology

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